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Activist arrested after spraying ‘Stalin’ on Heydar Aliyev statue sentenced to six years

10 April 2024
Elbayi Karimli. Image via social media.

Azerbaijani police have sentenced an activist arrested in August after spraying the name ‘Stalin’ on a Heydar Aliyev statue to six years in prison on drug charges.

The Baku Criminal Court sentenced 23-year-old Elbayi Karimli, a member of the opposition Popular Front Party,  on Saturday.

His lawyer, Nemat Karimli (unrelated to Elbayi Karimli), told OC Media that his client was arrested in August 2023 shortly after spraying Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s name on a statue of Heydar Aliyev, the late national leader and father of the country’s current president, Ilham Aliyev. 

‘He tried to write “Stalin” on the back of the statue’s pedestal, and then city cleaners saw that and called the police. The police kept him and accused him of drug use’, he said.

He added that Elbayi Karimli’s family and friends found out about his arrest only two months later. He added that Karimli lived with his grandmother.

‘She is an older person and did not know anyone from his friend group. His friends also were not aware of his arrest. Only after two months did one of his friends in prison call his friends’, said the lawyer.

Upon finding out that her grandson had been arrested on drug charges, Karimli’s grandmother sent the police a letter calling for his release and stating that he never used drugs.


In a letter penned by Elbayi Karimli on 6 November seen by OC Media, he called on police investigator Subhan Zeynalov to launch a new investigation into his case.

Photos of the letter Elbayi Karimli sent to investigator Subhan Zeynalov. Image via Nemat Karimli.

In the letter, Karimli said he had been arrested for trying to write Stalin’s name on the pedestal of Heydar Aliyev’s statue in front of the Central Bank in Baku. He claimed that he was given a choice between two charges: possession of firearms or drug charges.

‘If I did not choose one from two orders, they told me that they would download images of strategic military places and claim I planned to share this information with Iran or Armenia’, the letter read.

After choosing to be given drug charges, Karimli said that the police planted drugs in his pocket.

‘Thanks be to Allah, because we found one kilogramme of drugs in Giyas Ibrahimov’s home’, the police told Karimli, referring to the arrest of anti-war activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov after the two painted graffiti on a statue of Heydar Aliyev in 2016.

The chair of the Popular Front Party, Ali Karimli (also unrelated), issued a statement condemning Elbayi Karimli’s sentencing and claiming that the young activist was tortured in police detention.

Elbayi was arrested, severely tortured, slandered with drugs, and imprisoned for six years. As a party, we do not appreciate the fact that our young people write on sculptures and spend their years in prison. We believe it is important not to fight against statues, but against the single power’, said Karimli.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.